[church] prepare ye, prepare ye, the way of HaShem
During Coffee Hour on Sunday after CHPC, Barbara (who's been coming to CHPC for maybe a year?) told me that she'd been at her sister-in-law's church (in California, I think) and read an article in a newsletter about "progressive Christianity" and thought, "Oh! Yes! That! Now I have a name for what I am." I laughed and said, "I joke about all the leftie churches I hang out in, but yeah, 'progressive Christianity' is also an accurate term." She said that "leftie church" doesn't work as a term for her because it has connotations/implications that aren't true for her. I wanted to say, "What part of 'leftie' doesn't work for you?" but instead I just said lightly, "Eh, I just like being flippant."
I was telling Ari about this tonight, and I said that I don't remember when I first encountered the term "progressive Christianity" but that it makes intuitive sense to me -- "two great tastes, taste great together," I quipped ... I mean, in the Venn Diagram of identities, there are progressives and there are Christians and what do you call that overlapping segment?
I said that I'd been ruined by going to college in Northampton where (almost) all the churches have rainbow flags -- because the population is so predominantly queer(-friendly), of course subgroups of the population are going to be similar; ditto Smith College where there was Radical Catholic Feminists of Smith (RCFOS) and lots of lesbians in Hillel and so on. And I said that I guess if one came from a place where there was very little queer presence, it would be easy for the religious voices to be either anti- or silent, which would make rainbow flag church seem an unusual thing. And I know that I should cut people some slack for being all, "Oh, this church is unique and special and amazing and different," because if the only church they have known is church that has hurt them, then encountering an alternative would really rock their worldview. It still makes me cranky, though, because there are SO MANY churches in this geographical area that have progressive politics and social policies, that practice inclusivity and non-hierarchical participation, and different churches do different things better than others, and your church is not the ONLY option (and is not necessarily even the best option).
At CHPC we have had two book group sessions on John Shelby Spong's Sins of Scriptures
, and the second session turned into largely talking about what do we have after all of this "traditional" stuff we've inherited has been discarded, and how can church be relevant and meaningful and etc. (Karl's sermon that day had been on how at the conference he'd been to the previous day he'd been reminded once again of how much he loves the Church and how many churches are dying but many churches are out there on the edges trying to do a new thing and he wants CHPC to be one of those active creative churches).
Later that week (which was last week), Karl came across The First Christmas: what the gospels really teach us about Jesus' birth by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan
and emailed us saying, "I've just been going through it and think that it would be a really good read for us during advent. It's about seeing scripture as metaphor and parable, and the political critique the gospels were making of their time, and more. I would love for us to suspend Spong for a little while and spend 2 or 3 weeks with Borg and Crossan."
Today, someone Replied All saying that right now they are "more interested in discussing how we as a church can live some of the things we discussed after reading Sprong's book" and maybe Session and Worship Committee could read the book and "discuss how some of the relevant issues can be implemented in our worship and in the life of our church."
I have really mixed feelings about this, because, on the one hand, I am thrilled that people really want to continue this conversation about how we do church, but on the other hand, I really want to do Advent. In part because I'm not good at doing Advent, so I want all the resources I can get. And also... we can't wait a month to return to that other discussion? How present (physically/mentally) are people really gonna be during the holiday season anyway for discussions of How We Do Church?
And as I was realizing while talking to Ari tonight, that what we believe we're waiting for in Advent is really central to our faith.
I was rereading some stuff from Easter 2007 earlier today, and thinking about how "Christ is Risen" is a true statement every day of our lives, about how the light in the darkness and God dwelling amongst us and so many things are ALREADY (and always) true -- and I don't WANT Advent ... I don't WANT the waiting. But then I was thinking about the reasons I'd been feeling down and how a lot of that is stuff that I just need to bear through, that the waiting is a good practice to cultivate.
CWM's Advent Planning meeting was a conference call tonight instead of a meatspace meeting due to scheduling constraints. I called in at 8:01pm (for an 8pm call). Tiffany was the only person on the call -- and that remained true for the next forty-five minutes until we hung up. Tiffany had expected that I would (A) call in, (B) have read the lectionary texts. I did the homework
but didn't really have thoughts, but I called in anyway.
Tiffany remembered from my sermon a few weeks
ago that I love Advent. I laughed and said I'd been having a mopey day and had been thinking about Easter and how the things we celebrate on Easter are always/already true and about how I didn't want to do the dark waiting period of Advent.
We talked about the lectionary and what spoke to us, surprised us, etc. I said that one thing that had surprised me was that "Rejoice in the LORD always"
is in the Advent lectionary
. She said that had surprised her, too -- that it shouldn't, because it is one of the candles after all, but when she thinks of Advent she immediately thinks of a contemplative time. She talked about the joy of Advent as being an authentic joy in opposition to the false joy of consumerist culture.
We talked about the reminders that God's Reign isn't going to be what we expect, that we can have very strong ideas about what kind of thing it's going to look like, but ultimately we are all going to be surprised, it is beyond our comprehension, there is, as Tiffany said, an element of Mystery. We also talked about the pregnancy metaphor, about how that's joy mixed with anxiety, about how you don't know what's going to come out.
After about a half an hour, we'd run through lectionary and themes and images and hymns and decorating the altar, and Tiffany thanked me for taking the time to participate in this call and also reiterated, with the same high level of energy as she had when she said the same to me on Sunday, that she really enjoys reading my sermons and that she thinks they should be shared with more than just my facebook friends and that the pulpit is open. She said preaching sermons is very different from writing sermons (I know) and she hoped that the experience of preaching would help with my discernment -- she said preaching is what really drew her into the ministry, that kind of dynamic energy. I did not say that I do not get that kind of charge out of public performance/engagement. She said if I haven't picked a Sunday by the first week after January she'll assign me one. I laughed long. "You can always say 'no,'" she pointed out.
When I told Scott (a few weeks ago) about her open-pulpit offer, I said I'm not familiar enough with the lectionary to know what Sunday I would want, and I'm not sure how helpful reading ahead in the lectionary would be (especially since it often takes me a few days of sitting with the lectionary texts to find a way in), and he said that some of his best sermons (or whatever the appropriate equivalent is) have come from just being assigned a parsha, so he suggested I just pick a Sunday at random; so I may take her up on her offer to simply assign me a Sunday. However, I also welcome input from people more familiar with the lectionary than I.
She also suggested that I could write a book -- collecting all the sermons after a year and also including a reflection on the process. "I would buy that book." It's definitely an intriguing idea (though of course part of me wants to wait until I've gone through the whole three-year lectionary). I would self-publish, obvs. -- lulu.com or something.
My facebook status is, "Elizabeth is in a much better mood after the Advent Planning (and other lectionary-related conversations) call with Tiffany," which says a lot about my life and who I am.